Chris' Original Blogbeque

A fresh, vinegar-based examination of life

Guilt Offering

Posted by Chris on June 4, 2008

This is part of a series. See the description and introduction and glossary.

The guilt offering, sometimes known as the trespass offering, is similar to the sin offering in that the Lord required it to atone for specific sins committed by the Israelite community. The commentator Matthew Henry divides the guilt offering into two categories: they are sins against a neighbor in either holy things or common things. First I will give some general information on the guilt offering and then look at these two types of sins in detail.

General characteristics

  • Offering is brought as a penalty in addition to atonement (Lev 5:15, 6:6)
  • Sacrifice: a ram w/o defect, worth in silver the value of a sanctuary shekel (Lev 5:15, 6:6)
  • Like the sin offering; ofg belongs to priest who makes atonement; any male in the priest’s family may eat it, in a holy place (Lev 7:6-7)

Sinning against God v. Sinning against Man

  • Despite the categories I gave from HENRY, the text emphasizes that sin is first against the Lord, even if one has wronged a neighbor. (Lev 5:19, 6:2, Num 5:6) HENRY himself says:

Though all the instances relate to our neighbour, yet it is called a trespass against the Lord. Though the person injured be mean, and even despicable, yet the injury reflects upon that God who has made the command of loving our neighbour next to that of loving himself… The trespasses here mentioned, still are trespasses against the law of Christ, which insists as much upon justice and truth, as the law of nature, or the law of Moses.

Requiring Restitution

  • Guilty one must also make restitution in full for his sin, plus adding a fifth of the value (Lev 5:16, 6:5, Num 5:7)
  • Num 5:8 adds the following: if wronged person has no close relative to whom restitution can be made, it belongs to the Lord and is given to the priest along with guilt ofg
  • While the text does not make this explicit, WESLEY and GILL both add that it must be the case that the victim has died during this time (or, WESLEY says, they may have gone to a far-off place). This seems similar to the same way that one would look to a kinsmen if someone had died childless (for an example, read the Book of Ruth).

GUZIK: “If a person had been defrauded, it wasn’t enough that sacrifice cover the guilt of the sin before God; restitution had to settle the account with the victim of the fraud.”
HENRY: “all methods of doing wrong to others, are alike violations of the Divine law, even keeping what is found, when the owner can be discovered. Frauds are generally accompanied with lies, often with false oaths. If the offender would escape the vengeance of God, he must make ample restitution, according to his power, and seek forgiveness by faith in that one Offering which taketh away the sin of the world.”

After declaring the general characteristics, the lesson about sin as being a violation against the Lord, and the requirement of restitution, let’s look at the two categories of sins which call for a guilt offering atonement.

Sins against The Lord’s Holy Things

  • Still unintentional sins, but not in regard to commands, but the “Lord’s holy things” (Lev 5:15)
  • Restitution is given to the priest along with the guilt offering (Lev 5:16)

CLARKE: relates to sacrilege and defrauds in spiritual matters, such as: neglect to consecrate or redeem firstborn; withholding first-fruits and tithes; making secular gain of divine things—keeping back any part of the price of things dedicated to God; withholding a vow

  • Sounds like Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5; makes sense that these are sins to which you can assign a quantitative value, thus adding a fifth is easy to calculate (as opposed to touching something holy when one is unclean or some kind of sin like that)
  • CLARKE seems to imply sins that might have intentionality—you could forget part of the price of a thing dedicated to God, or to consecrate firstborn, but defrauding sounds intentional. This is an important distinction, as normally there is no sacrifice which can atone for intentional sin (see the Matthew Henry commentary I quote in the Sin Offering study). This view is contrasted with Henry. It is not surprising that Henry would not find this to be an example of intentional sin after saying about the sin offering that only unintentional sins could be atoned for.

HENRY adds the following possibilities of sins against holy things and the priests who cared for them:

  • Converting to one’s use anything dedicated to God (whether tithes, first fruits, firstborn of cattle)
  • Eating any of the parts of sacrifices that are for priests.

Sins against Common Things

  • These are intentional sins
  • Text indicates the following as wrongs towards one’s neighbor: Deceiving about something left in one’s care; steal from or cheat him; lying about lost property; swearing falsely; leaves it open for “any such sin that people may do” (Lev 6:2-3)
  • Restitution is given to the owner on the day the guilt ofg given (return that of which the wrong concerned along with adding a fifth of the value) (Lev 6:4-5)

Note on Numbers 5:5-8

  • This passage addresses restitution without mentioning guilt offering but seems to re-inforce everything in Lev 5 & 6. I have assumed it can be laid on top of those chapters to affirm and add to the understanding of the guilt ofg.
  • WESLEY, in his commentary on Num 5:8, calls it “an additional explication to that law” in Leviticus 6:2

This marks a break in the study.  I’m not sure where I will go next as this is the end of the prominent offerings described in the beginning chapters of the book of Leviticus.  I think I will move next to the Holidays and Feasts as prescribed for and practiced by the ancient Jewish religion.


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